Professor of Jewish Studies at the American Jewish University
“Thrown Upon the World tells a bitter truth that vividly depicts the damage inflicted on those forced into exile. The harshest truth of all is that not all who survived were ennobled by their suffering. Some were destroyed by it, and some destroyed others because of it.”
San Francisco Review of Books
"This richly written book is a true story about many of the side effects of WW II – the Nazi anti-Semitism, the flight of Jews to places of safety – Shanghai in this story, and the miscegenation resulting from loves cast on a sea of insecurity, and more and more."
Author of Night in Shanghai, Lost in Translation, and The Last Chinese Chef
"This true family saga of war and betrayal is both epic and intimate, pulsing with unforgettable characters caught in the tumult of history. Impossible to put down, it is deeply moving, answering heartbreak with healing through the sheer power of storytelling. What more can be asked of a book?"
Recipient of "Reviewers Choice" award from Midwest Book Review
“An incredible and simply fascinating account, ‘Thrown Upon the World’ is one of those real life tales the stuff of which block-buster television mini-series are made. A simply riveting and memorable read from beginning to end, ‘Thrown Upon the World’ will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library collections.”
Carol Hoyer for Reader Views
"...As the war looms over both families, they are forced to leave their homes to seek safety for an area that will accept them in Shanghai. The authors do an excellent job of detailing the trials each family goes through to get to a safe area as well as adding much needed factual information other than what one reads in history books. I honestly can say that, “Thrown Upon The World” opened my eyes to how the ripple effect of the war and persecution of Jewish people impacted the world as a whole. It also shows me that racism and belittling happens everywhere, not just what we see on the news today..."
Brian Haman, Editor of the Shanghai Literary Review, for Culture Books
"Thrown upon the World looks at one Jewish Viennese family’s odyssey escaping the Nazis and its fallout for future generations...
Written with emotional sensitivity and probing honesty, the narrative juxtaposes the lives of the Kolbers and the Gan Chen clan, a prominent Chinese family whose lives had been upended by the Japanese occupation. An aspiring violinist, young Walter Kolber meets a gifted pianist, Chao Chen (to whom the book is dedicated), and the two marry and have a child. Unable to accept an interracial marriage, however, Walter’s father disowns him, and he returns to Austria in 1945 with his wife and child; tensions lead to domestic violence and serial infidelity, racism, mental illness, and, finally, separation. With few prospects in postwar Austria, Walter leaves for the United States with three of his now four children (one was adopted by an Austrian doctor and his Chinese wife), while Chao Chen spends a decade in a Viennese mental institution before returning to Shanghai. Unable to care for himself or his children, Walter transfers custody of his sons – the authors of the present volume – to foster homes through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Jewish Family Services..."
"In this compelling memoir...the author shares a family saga of forbidden love, cultural divides, a broken family, betrayal, depression, and so much more, all wrapped up in the life of a Chinese woman and her duplicitous husband. It’s a riveting read that will tug on readers’ heartstrings while bringing the historical era to life."
"The writing is personal, emotional, and straightforward as the author shares a page-turning story. The writing is powerful, and the dialogue narrative balance aptly helps maintain the pacing. While the story is long, it’s an engaging read that captures the historical period with visual acuity."